SALT LAKE CITY — Sugar House resident Judi Short has accepted the fact that her neighborhood will house one of Salt Lake City's four new homeless resource centers announced this week.
But that doesn't mean her neighborhood won't do everything in its power to make sure they are the least impacted.
"One thing's clear: We can't argue the site. We don't have that option," said Short, vice chairwoman of the Sugar House Community Council. "But we can try to get the best option possible."
It's the most prevalent question now swirling around the planned resource centers meant to break up and scatter the Road Home's homeless population, now that city leaders have made it clear that the sites themselves are not up for negotiation:
Who goes where?
Among neighbors and city leaders, the answer to that question is already dependent on knowing which populations will have low or high impacts on their surroundings. Their choices: women, men or families with children.
It's likely two of the 150-bed centers will house single men, which makes up the majority of Salt Lake's homeless population. Another will likely house women, and the other families with children.
Councilwoman Lisa Adams said she'll only support placing the least impactful population in the center planned in her District 7 at 653 E. Simpson Ave. (2240 South) in Sugar House — whether that's determined to be women or families with children.
"I was really reluctant to agree to that site because it was the only one in a (residential) neighborhood," Adams said. "But I agreed to it with absolute assurance from the (mayor's) administration that the least impactful population would go there. If they can't deliver on that, then the little enthusiasm I have will become no support."
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and her staff have said public workshops planned for next month will help shape the resource centers and who they'll serve, though it's not clear when that decision will be made.
Nonetheless, City Council members already seem to have come to a consensus around the Sugar House location. Council members Erin Mendenhall and Derek Kitchen, who represent two other districts that are planned to house the three other centers, both agreed that the Sugar House site is the most sensitive.
As for other sites — 275 W. High Ave. (1475 South) in the Ballpark neighborhood; 648 W. 100 South in downtown; and 131 E. 700 South in Central City — some council members have their preferences, but there appears to be general agreement so far on which locations would or wouldn't be able to handle higher-impact populations.
"We're incredibly united so far," Mendenhall said.
For example, Adams and Kitchen both said the downtown site — less than two blocks away from the Road Home — should also serve a low-impact population. Kitchen suggested that may be a good location for women, families or working men.
"That neighborhood has just been through so much over the years," Kitchen said. "It does need a bit of a break."
As for the other two sites, Mendenhall and Kitchen said their size and accessibility may make them more conducive for higher-impact populations, like single men.
The 275 W. High Ave. site sits on 3 acres and can be designed to be more set back and protected, Mendenhall pointed out. Kitchen said the 131 E. 700 South site — currently a Deseret Industries building — is situated near established service providers and is bound in on three sites by surrounding buildings, making the site easier to secure.
"There's going to be concerns with every location; that's the reality," Kitchen acknowledged, not discounting the fact that he and his colleagues have received complaints from constituents regarding all locations.
Emails and phone calls reacting to the sites have ranged from fearful to livid — some threatening, Adams said.
"This really has brought out the worst in a lot of people," she said, adding that every once in a while, however, she'll see an email from a resident asking how they can help.
Mendenhall expressed gratitude to Ballpark and Central City community councils for expressing willingness to work with the City Council to make sure the 131 E. 700 South and 275 W. High Ave. sites welcome those in need while also mitigating impacts on their neighborhoods.
While Central City neighborhood chairman Michael Iverson said his area will "greet the challenge with optimism," he also urged the city to be more transparent and cooperative with the neighborhood moving forward.
"These new resource centers represent an opportunity to weave back into our community those who are most in need, but that can only be accomplished through a robust partnership between service providers, neighborhood residents and local business owners," he said in a statement Tuesday.
Valerie Vaughn, chairwoman of Liberty Wells Community Council — an area that does not house a site but is bordered by three — said a lot of her neighbors are upset, but fear of the unknown is mostly fueling their anger.
That's fair, Adams said, acknowledging that she can only do her best to assure the public that the new resource centers won't have conditions anything like what they currently know as the Road Home.